As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t really believe in God. Or, to be more clear, I don’t believe in God in the way that most religions describe him.
I do think there are mysteries in the world, and I believe that there is something keeping the engine running around here. But whatever the engine of life may be, I do not think it is a God who cares who wins the Super Bowl or American Idol. I do not think he’s ready to punish me if I do something wrong. I do not think he cares what I eat or drink. I definitely do not think he’s sending us checklists of good and bad behaviors. (Good and bad are just good and bad, with or without commandments.) In fact, I don’t think he’s a he. Certainly not a bearded white man as depicted in so many stained glass windows.
Trying to express my own understanding of a higher power makes me feel ridiculous, but it’s something a little like this: if you take a tiny piece of everything in the world — the movement in the ocean, the smell of leaves, the sound of a bird, the light in the sky, the dark in the ground, peonies, the life in me and the life in you — all those things add up to Something Big. I don’t know if I can call it god. But it’s a sense of the miraculous wholeness of the world, and the way it keeps turning. And the fact that we’re all here together.
Having said that, I fully respect people who believe in God and go to church or temple or mosque. I admire faith. Recently, people have been telling me that they’re praying for me (thank you!) so I’ve been thinking more about prayer.
If you’re devout, to pray is to ask for help or peace or guidance, and to believe (or at least hope) that you’ll get support in one form or another. That is a wonderful concept.
But what is prayer to a nonbeliever? It’s not asking for and expecting help, but I think it’s something just as important: the expression of the heart’s most deeply held wishes and needs.
Think about the things people pray for: health, strength, peace, love, aid, wisdom.
There’s no magic button that we can push get those things. No magic words. But there’s value in recognizing and articulating your deepest wants, and then wanting them with all your might. There is something profound about taking the time and space to form the words. Perhaps the act of saying or thinking words of prayer helps you to strengthen your resolve or open your heart. Maybe praying is a way of beginning a journey, whether you bring God along with you or not.
So here’s one for me:
To the mysterious universe and all that it contains:
Please let me gather the strength to meet my future with joy, no matter what it holds.
Let me find humor even on dark days.
Let me hold close the people I love, and support them in every way that I can.
Let me have a graceful spirit even if it’s in a clumsy body.
Let me always, always see the spark in the world around me.